Bangladesh wants matters of its own factory safety and compliance in its own hands. And as such, both the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety have agreed to leave the country when their tenures are up in 2018. Established following the Rana Plaza building collapse that left more than 1,100 dead and Bangladesh battling to restore faith in its garment sector, both programmes have been in place to improve safety conditions at factories in the country through inspections and remediation efforts.
The US-led Alliance, which counts Macy’s, Target and Walmart among its signatories, said over the summer that it would not renew its tenure. The EU-backed Accord, however, which brands like Inditex, H&M and Primark had signed on to, said in March that it would renew the agreement and continue its efforts to improve conditions in Bangladesh’s ready mage garment industry. After pressure from the Bangladesh High Court, however, which issued a stay earlier this month on implementing the renewed Accord, the organisation has agreed to leave the country when its original commitment ends in May—provided already underway remediations continue according to plan.
If factory improvements the Accord has been overseeing aren’t yet complete by the end of May next year, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh government have agreed that the Accord could stay on for an additional six months in order to ensure a smooth transition to the government-led agency, called Shonman, which will take over where the Accord and Alliance left off. “We believe that together, since 2013, the Accord and the BGMEA have made enormous strides in the improvement of safety standards in our industry and a credible, transparent and effective mechanism will be in place for the necessary handover of these functions by the time the Accord expires next year,” BGMEA said in a statement.
Shonman will be run by an ombudsman selected by the Bangladesh Prime Minister and include a steering committee comprised of members of the BGMEA, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), the International Labour Organization, brands, trade unions and labour Ministries. The first phase for Shonman, which will begin in January, will be to enlist a Remediation Coordination Cell to ensure factories under the Accord, the Alliance and the National Action Plan complete 85 per cent of their remediation targets by the end of next year. In the second phase, which will begin in June 2018, Shonman will call on signatory buyers to help with third-party audit fees to enable the organisation to continue its independent factory verifications.